Su­per­car on tour takes in Nel­son

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE - SA­MAN­THA GEE

A V8 su­per­car raced by the late Ja­son Richards was back in Nel­son as part of a na­tion­wide tour to sup­port up and com­ing driv­ers.

Team Kiwi Rac­ing owner David John said it was a bit sen­ti­men­tal to be in Nel­son with the V8 Richards first raced in, which had been re­cently re­stored.

John set up TKR in 2000 to sup­port young New Zealan­ders to make it on the in­ter­na­tional motorsport stage.

Nel­son-born Richards was the team’s first driver.

‘‘That car we will al­ways keep and never sell be­ing that it was the first ever Kiwi team V8 su­per­car to go over and com­pete in the Aus­tralian Su­per­car cham­pi­onship.’’

‘‘It has opened up a huge amount of op­por­tu­ni­ties for other driv­ers to fol­low.’’

Richards died from can­cer in 2011 at the age of 35.

He started in 131 V8 Su­per­car Cham­pi­onship events and 284 in­di­vid­ual races after his de­but in 2000.

He stood on the podium six times, in­clud­ing win­ning

Win­ton in 2006 and he was a three-time Bathurst run­ner-up.

John said other driv­ers who had been through the Team Kiwi de­vel­op­ment academy in­cluded Craig Baird, Paul Ra­disich and Shane van Gis­ber­gen.

The tour around the coun­try was one way the team raised money to sup­port its driv­ers.

To run one car in the Su­per­car Cham­pi­onship cost around $5 mil­lion a year, he said.

‘‘We go out and get spon­sor­ship, pro­vide the cars, equip­ment plus we find the short­fall that a driver would usu­ally bring to a team.’’

John said the team were preparing for a re­turn to the Su­per­cars Cham­pi­onship in Aus­tralia.

There were four de­vel­op­ment driv­ers who he hoped within the next year or two would be ready to com­pete in­ter­na­tion­ally.

‘‘They have to have the right at­ti­tude, they have to be able to work in a team en­vi­ron­ment, they have to be mar­ketable and they have to be able to drive.’’

John said Vern Walker of Nel­son Bays Mo­tor Group had been a ‘‘long time sup­porter’’ of Team Kiwi Rac­ing.

Walker said it was spe­cial to have Richards’ former car in Nel­son.

He said Richards was a lo­cal boy and a very suc­cess­ful V8 Su­per­car driver.

‘‘He was one of those truly charis­matic peo­ple, he had a smile that would melt any block of con­crete, he was a ter­rific guy.’’

LUZ ZU­NIGA/ STUFF

Hunter Ha­ley had a need for speed when he got be­hind the wheel of the Team Kiwi Rac­ing race sim­u­la­tor at Nel­son Bays Mo­tor­group.

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